Reduce storage power consumption via higher IOPS and capacity per watt

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Reduce storage power consumption via higher IOPS and capacity per watt

Powering off disk drives and employing data reduction technologies aren't the only ways to reduce data storage power consumption and improve energy efficiency.

Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at StorageIO Group and author of The Green and Virtual Data Center, advises IT shops to put in faster disk drives and boost IOPS per watt of energy in their high-transaction, performance-intensive environments. He also recommends storing more capacity per watt in storage environments loaded down with inactive data.

In this podcast interview, Schulz offers other tips on how to improve the energy efficiency of data storage systems. You can read a transcript of the interview below or download the MP3.

SearchStorage.com: What's the one thing you would advise an IT shop to do right now to reduce storage power consumption?

Schulz: The first thing is take action. Do something about it, rather than talk about it, speculate or question whether there is or is not a benefit. Go out and look to understand what your current power consumption is, what your current resources are, the amount of storage and how effectively it is actually being used. What's your utilization? What's your performance?

SearchStorage.com: How much money can a company save, percentage-wise, by taking steps to reduce storage power consumption?

Schulz: It's going to be all over the board, and it depends on where you're at, the amount of optimization that you can achieve -- not to mention the particular geography -- because there are different rebates, incentives, programs from different utilities. So, it could be from a single-digit percentage to double digits.

SearchStorage.com: What are potential areas for energy savings that IT shops commonly tend to overlook?

Schulz: The focus tends to be around power avoidance, power conservation, in other words, shutting the disk drives off, powering things off. The most overlooked opportunity is boosting productivity, boosting performance, doing more work per watt of energy and storing more data, moving more data per watt of energy. Instead of just simply squeezing, compressing, compacting, thin provisioning, deduping, all these other things that are commonly talked about, if you put a faster disk drive in, consolidate your I/Os, you're actually doing more IOPS per watt. You're actually lowering your cost per transaction. You're also using less energy.

SearchStorage.com: What's the lowest-hanging fruit for IT shops looking to conserve energy and save money?

Schulz: There's a focus on saving, but very commonly when I talk to IT organizations, IT pros, while some are looking to save, many are looking to grow, to support more capacity, to support more performance, support and sustain the business with what they currently have. If they currently have a 1 megawatt footprint for primary as well as secondary power, but they need to grow their environment by 15%, 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, they need to squeeze more into that footprint. The key is understanding what you have and, if you don't have tools right now, to understand how your resources are being utilized, meeting your objectives. For example, if you have storage that's running at maybe 10% utilized because you're trying to hit a particular performance level, well guess what? Moving that data onto a faster drive is all of a sudden going to save you quite a bit in terms of hardware but also in terms of energy costs.

SearchStorage.com: For IT shops that happen to be purchasing new storage, what do you think they should be looking for, with an eye toward energy efficiency and reduced power consumption?

Schulz: If your environment is performance-intensive, then you're going to be looking for solutions that give you better IOPS per watt, better bandwidth per watt. If your environment is data intensive -- in other words, it's about having a lot of data and a very, very small energy-efficient footprint -- you're going to be looking for the best capacity per watt. If you're like a lot of environments -- which is a mix of some performance, some inactive, some archive, some reference data -- then you're going to need to take a more balanced approach.

Let's say, for example, that you currently have 28 TB of online, primary, high-performance storage. Your annual energy cost, say, at 12 cents a kilowatt is $8,000. And then also assume that you have 192 TB of high-capacity, low-cost storage for doing disk-to-disk backup, archives [and] referencing that also costs you about $8,000 a year [in energy costs]. For both of those environments, you might be constrained on capacity. You might be constrained on performance.

However, going to a new solution that leverages a combination of, say, four 250 GB solid-state disks, 32 450 GB 15,000 rpm SAS or Fibre Channel drives, 124 2 TB high-capacity SATA drives, you can actually boost your overall capacity. You can boost your overall performance and cut your energy consumption in half. That's without adding additional capabilities like thin provisioning, deduping, compressing, space-saving snapshots, all those extra things at different RAID levels. So, just that simple approach of using different tiers of technology, aligning to your business needs, you can boost performance, boost capacity and lower costs.

This was first published in July 2010